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Thursday, January 10, 2013

City-by-City Rankings: Buying Power of Starting Associate Salaries

NALP, Buying Power Index Class of 2011:

City Median  Salary Salary Required to Yield NYC Buying Power Buying Power Index
Dallas, TX $135,000 $70,350 1.919
Wilmington, DE 145,000 79,710 1.819
Houston, TX 115,000 65,670 1.751
Charlotte, NC 115,000 68,230 1.686
Los Angeles, CA 160,000 97,110 1.648
Boston, MA 160,000 100,400 1.594
Costa Mesa, CA 160,000 104,350 1.533
Washington, DC 160,000 104,790 1.527
Nashville, TN 100,000 65,960 1.516
Grand Rapids, MI 97,500 65,375 1.484
Detroit, MI 100,000 68,520 1.459
Menlo Park, CA 160,000 109,910 1.456
Mountain View, CA 160,000 109,910 1.456
Palo Alto, CA 160,000 109,910 1.456
Pittsburgh, PA 100,000 69,320 1.443
Austin, TX 97,500 67,790 1.438
Newark, NJ 135,000 95,940 1.407
Cleveland, OH 104,000 74,150 1.403
Salt Lake City, UT 97,000 69,180 1.402
Birmingham, AL 90,000 64,790 1.389
Irvine, CA 140,000 104,350 1.342
New Orleans 93,000 69,910 1.330
Denver, CO 100,000 76,780 1.302
Phoenix, AZ 91,250 70,570 1.293
Seattle, WA 110,000 85,630 1.285
Atlanta, GA 90,000 71,150 1.265
Minneapolis, MN 102,000 80,880 1.261
Philadelphia, PA 115,000 91,410 1.258
Ft. Worth, TX 85,000 68,080 1.249
Milwaukee, WI 89,000 72,610 1.226
San Francisco, CA 145,000 118,980 1.219
Chicago, IL 100,000 83,880 1.192
Kansas City, MO 85,000 72,690 1.169
Tampa, FL 76,500 67,130 1.140
St. Louis, MO 75,000 66,620 1.126
Louisville, KY 75,000 67,060 1.119
Cincinnati, OH 75,000 68,230 1.099
Hartford, CT 98,500 90,530 1.088
Des Moines, IA 72,000 66,690 1.080
Charleston, WV 73,500 68,885 1.060
Richmond, VA 77,500 73,200 1.059
Alexandria, VA 110,000 104,790 1.050
San Antonio, TX 71,000 68,080 1.043
Memphis, TN 65,000 62,815 1.035
Las Vegas, NV 75,000 73,200 1.025
Raleigh, NC 70,000 68,590 1.021
New York, NY 160,000 160,000 1.000
Wichita, KS 63,000 67,420 0.934
Jacksonville, FL 64,000 68,665 0.932
Omaha, NE 60,000 65,375 0.918
Miami, FL 70,000 78,320 0.894
San Diego, CA 85,000 95,500 0.890
Madison, WI 69,000 79,050 0.873
Albuquerque, NM 60,000 69,180 0.867
W. Palm Beach, FL
70,500 81,170 0.862
Columbia, SC 60,000 69,835 0.859
Baltimore, MD 74,000 87,090 0.850
Okla. City, OK 56,250 66,180 0.850
Oakland, CA 84,000 99,450 0.845
Baton Rouge, LA 57,500 68,450 0.840
Tulsa, OK 55,000 65,810 0.836
Knoxville, TN 54,250 65,300 0.831
Southfield, MI 56,000 68,520 0.817
Lexington, KY 52,500 67,200 0.781
Newport, CA 80,000 104,350 0.767
Boca Raton, FL 60,000 81,170 0.739
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 60,000 81,170 0.739
Orlando, FL 52,000 71,520 0.727
Little Rock, AR 50,000 69,980 0.714
Montgomery, AL 47,500 71,150 0.668
Albany, NY 54,000 81,390 0.660
Long Beach, CA 63,700 97,110 0.649
Beverly Hills, CA 60,000 97,110 0.618
Charleston, SC 45,000 72,910 0.617
Fairfax, VA 62,500 104,790 0.592
Honolulu, HI 70,000 122,710 0.571

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Comments

One, did they get these median salaries from the law schools? Cause they seem inflated at the top end. Jones Day's starting salary in LA is $160k. They are the median? Not likely.

Two, I always think these cost of living comparisons are off. Does a person in Memphis making $65k really have more ability to pay down law school debt than someone in NYC making $160k? I seriously doubt it. Or what about if both want to go on vacation somewhere? Or who has more to invest and therefore if they both want to retire somewhere else?

Posted by: the real anon | Jan 10, 2013 7:51:12 AM

One big flaw here...omitting the *number of annual openings* in each metro.

NYC is indeed crap-tastic when it comes to cost-of-living - but it also represents a (distressingly) huge fraction of all annual legal hiring.

(Rather senselessly in the era of the internet, btw)

If NYC has 10,000 annual slots and Dallas 500...well, there isn't much law grads can do about it.

Posted by: cas127 | Jan 10, 2013 8:52:43 AM

I always wonder why Tucson is left out of tables like this. Its Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of about 980,000, ranking it 52nd nationally, about the same as Salt Lake City (48), Albuquerque (57), and Omaha (58). Its MSA is also much higher than Knoxville (74),Grand Rapids, Michigan (69) and Madison (89).

Has NALP blacklisted the University of Arizona Law School and its hometown? Does it just consider Arizona another flyover state on their way from headquarters in Washington DC, to the left coast? Do they think Tucson is just a suburb of Phoenix, 120 miles away? (Madison and Milwaukee are closer, but are listed separately.)

Posted by: Bob | Jan 10, 2013 1:08:34 PM

This also doesn't reflect the growth of salaries in NYC vs elsewhere - salaries outside of the big legal markets are much more compressed, such that a senior associate in a mid-sized market (e.g., Memphis) may only be making what a first or second year associate makes in NYC, whereas a senior associate in NYC may pull down a salary higher than that of a junior equity partner in Memphis.

Thus the cost of living advantage enjoyed by associates in smaller markets is quickly eroded because their salaries grow at a far smaller rate than those of the NYC-scale markets.

Posted by: anon | Jan 10, 2013 3:46:19 PM

Median law school grad starting salary in LA entertainment biz is probably $40k. I recently had one working for me for $10 an hour for a while. It took me 15 years to crack 200k and I have one full time job and like 3 part time. But I haven't worked a day in probably 10 years - my career is a pure delight. I'd reckon less than half of the grads of my low tier ABA accredited law school ended up at law firms.

Posted by: charles in charge | Jan 10, 2013 4:16:57 PM

Kinda like The Economist's "Big Mac Index™" http://www.economist.com/search/apachesolr_search/big%20mac%20index

Posted by: Robert Arvanitis | Jan 10, 2013 5:00:14 PM

These have to be "big law" medians or, more likely "going rate" salaries. The commentator who notes New York has many more openings than other cities has a point, the top firms in other cities have to pay something close to New York 'going rate' salaries in order to get the top 'local' candidates who might otherwise take New York jobs. Most of those 'local' candidates who have gone to top law schools don't really realize the cost-of-living differentials between New York and other cities, most of which is taken up by housing and 'lifestyle' (e.g., eating out, cabs, etc.) costs which are not readily comparable. New York 'going rate' salaries are not all they're cracked up to be, especially given the billable hour differentials. Been there, done that.

Posted by: CatoRenasci | Jan 10, 2013 5:12:49 PM

This data is crap - the granularity is all wrong.

LA is $160k, but Beverly Hills is $60k? And Long Beach is $63.7k?

Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View (which are indistinguishable from each other) each get their own listing, but no San Jose listing?

Newark, NJ needs $95k to match the buying power of $160k right over the river? But Long Beach and Beverly Hills have the same cost of living?

Posted by: Anthony | Jan 10, 2013 10:15:40 PM